our barn got struck by lightening three times monday night. so no phone and no world wide web. also the fence power is out, but thats of little concern to you. in lieu of spending the mornings in waist high grass in the top pen trying to get 3G on my iPad i will be waiting until power is restored to communicate further with the Outside World. xoxo.


a few of my favorite things

i hope your weekend is filled with packages from sisters and baby foxes and rainbows and lilacs.

my yesterday was. solid birthday.

thank you for all of your birthday wishes you kind kind readers.

today, i am paying for it, with a sick boyfriend. pouring rain.  a mountain of email. and a bunch of cooped up furballs.

bon week-end.


today's going to be one of those good birthdays. i can feel it. off to fetch lilacs from the neighbors and make some biscuits for breakfast.

little lucky fox gave me a kiss on the nose and then ran off after this picture. i don't think he much likes sitting in front of a computer. silly wild fox.

excuse the second photo of me in two days. 27 and 28. (embarrassingly wearing the same dress, but i fell asleep in it). now i have it on record for how i aged and will return to normal broadcasting of animals, food, and runofthemill pastoral vomit . 


28, nearly

it's my birthday tomorrow. happy birthday, kate. thank you.

i tend to get rather gloomy and sentimental on birthdays and this one is no exception.  the untempered progression of years makes me so very uneasy. which usually translates into a foul mood. there is nothing more unpleasant than a brooding birthday girl though is there? so, this morning, as a farewell to 27, i flung myself naked off the dock of the pond. twice, for good measure. which was my way of slapping the brooding birthday girl across the face, and told myself to get on with it. 

to play it safe though i am spending the better part of the evening cleaning and baking lest an errant pillow or an empty cookie jar angers the birthday girl.

tomorrow will be filled with avocados and good cheeses and lilacs, and a sleep-in as i attempt to take on 28 with grace and pride.

also... there is this mirror in the hoop house and i never paid much mind to it until yesterday when i was searching for space near its base and i looked up and caught my reflection. i took a photo. i wish you could see the mountains in the reflection behind me. they would floor you, like they do me. but instead, its a just a grainy picture of me. i hate photos of myself. unless they are with somebody or some furry animal i love. this one isn't very focused or clear, so it makes me more comfortable. but i thought it would be wise to remember what i looked like at 27. so, please excuse it. it is an act of self-preservation.


the things you can make them do when they are napping

if ever there was a timeless nemesis to the Farmer it would be the Fox. but somehow this little starving, injured creature was being stomped on by the donkeys below our window and squirmed it's way into nick's heart. he's neither kitten nor dog. he's fox. but he loves both, plays with both, follows both around. and so appalling things like this keep happening in our house. nick is Head of Fox in these parts so visit him for more clues about why we have a wild fox napping on the couch and what we plan to do with him.


a weekend for summer and family

i spent the latter part of the week in new york seeing girlfriends i hadn't seen in months, years, and many years. eve. jacqueline. ayana. meagan. all smithies. each in their own way the antithesis of the farm and yet we still find so much to laugh about. and while that was wonderful i felt myself holding my breath looking at the bluebird sky and thinking of the garden. of the weeds. of the mountain. of nick. of those wretched beasts we dimly refer to as our brood. 

i bussed back to vermont late friday night and my parents met me in town and we rode the rest of the way to the farm together. they dropped me straight off at the barn so that i could milk and feed and close in. i breathed deeply again. nick arrived home the next day and the four of us humans settled into a weekend of early vermont summer. we herded runaway sheep. twice. dad built a dock on the pond with our neighbor. nick made cheese. rudy ate two wheels of drying cheddar + cloth. we navigated the newness of caring for a fox pup. mom made cake and we celebrated birthdays. dad made omelets and many pots of coffee. we brushed the winter coats of the donkeys and horse.  we ran and walked and swam. we hunted morels, furiously. we learned much about morel etiquette. you can politely ask somebody how their morel hunting is coming along but you don't dare ask specifics about where. it will embarrass both them and you as they don't want to tell you where. 

there is nothing i want more in this life than to have my family living on our farm. i don't care much for the goodbyes and the phone calls and the emails. i want them in the cabin through the woods. far enough away that we can all pretend we live in solitude but close enough that you can yell through the window to call them to dinner.

someday. for today i have what kristin kimball referred to in the dirty life as nostalgia for the farm's future. for the someday when the land we farm is our own. when we are picking from an asparagus patch that i had planted years ago. when we have our own morel spot in our own back field. for when we have family and friends staying and living and existing all around us. dreaming about that someday.


while the cat's away...

nick's at play with a baby fox, seemingly abandoned and starving. nothing a bowl of warm milk can't fix. laden with the ever practical-mind of a woman, i've already started asking the hard questions like what are we going to do when he starts to hunt chickens?

read about his little morning at www.wildhumans.org

(sorry for the crooked photo am on iPad and in central park and no idea how to manipulate such things)


as threatened

the weekend was full of kitty watching. here we have friday and fiddlehead. the former being the orange and the latter the gray. friday, because that was the day we picked them up. and fiddlehead for he isn't the brightest kitty and we have been eating many of them so, fiddleheads were on the mind. this is a fiddlehead for those that were curious.

when we weren't playing with the kitties the weekend filled herself with fence work. with potato planting. with shooting-star-gazing on the hammock. with the season's first thunderstorm. with moving cows. moving pigs. the discovery of a new forest run. a very informal open-barn where all of the neighbors on our little mountain road came to meet us. late night butter makings. more yogurt play. with the wonder of how the days could be so long and yet feel so inadequately short. but in between it all we kept sneaking back into the house for a kitten cuddle.

this week will take me to new york for a blistering 48 hours. and nick to boston. we're staggering our trips so that he leaves after morning milking on the day that i come back for evening milking. so if you don't hear much from us, that is what will be. 2 bewildered mountain monkeys coming down to the big cities, trying not to look too out of place.


dandelion fritters

some of you seemed rather curious when i mentioned dandelion fritters on monday. not one to want a disappointed crowd, i have made them for lunch today and took the opportunity to share with you their delight. 

i'm guessing you all know what a dandelion looks like. BUT in the effort of covering my bum, please, ALWAYS consult at least two guides before eating anything edible. in fact just the other day i id'd a leaf of a plant rather quickly and carelessly as a dandelion. it was not. and it made me feel quite silly. i mentioned the guides i use in the post on ramp pesto.

when picking dandelions, try to do so on a clear, sunny day. like most flowers the dandelion will close up and look rather angry on rainy, cloudy days. you want a nice open, calm flower to fry.

my caveat to this recipe would be to make just a small handful. or, make for a group of friends. you do not want to be left, alone, like i am today, with a whole bowl of fried dandelions. you will make yourself quite ill. i promise you.

every part of the dandelion is edible. from the roots to the greens and the flowers. euell gibbons wrote in his book of a family he knew that survived a famine on the island of minorca thanks, in no small part to dandelions. he said they would fry their dandelions in butter. nearly everyone has a recipe for dandelion fritters.  the essential principle is the fritter part. you really need only batter and oil and a hot pan. but i rather enjoyed the recipe from the burlington free press. i love how many times they say local in the ingredients list. it's like a bad tick. and so, here it is, copied from them but i have changed the  dipping sauce. the article calls for chevre and horseradish which sounds delicious but not what i have here. so i used my homemade yogurt and some cut up wild ramps as the dip dip.

dandelion fritters (as found in the burlington free press)

you will need:

2-3 cups of dandelion flowers
1 local egg, beaten
1 cup local milk
1/4 c all-purpose flower (king arthur or other locally milled or grown)
1 c cornmeal (from butterworks, or grow your own)
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 c veggie oil. i used EVOO, because i read the recipe hastily and therefor not thoroughly and it was scrumptious


1. for sauce, whip ingredients and set aside. serve with fritters. (again, use whatever sauce you can imagine, including the chevre and horseradish, or my yogurt with ramps).
2.  collect your dandelions from a nice clean pasture (not one where your dog or boyfriend pee). if they look clean, you needn't wash them.
3. mix up your batter including all the ingredients save the oil and the flowers.
4. put your oil in pan and heat. you want about a 1/4 in of oil. CAREFUL. hot oil has a very unpleasant reaction when contacted with the skin.
5. when the oil is hot dip the flowers into the batter while holding onto the stem and then drop them flower side down in the hot bubbling oil. again, careful.
6. cook until goden brown. fork or spoon them out of the oil and serve warm with the sauce of your choosing.

honestly, anything fried is delicious. i bet i could fry up worms if things got desperate enough and find them tasty. but the dandelion does have a bite to it that adds to the enjoyment of the fry.

i hope you all enjoy.

happy friday. we are adopting 2 kitties tonight from a farm the next town over. this should provide for a painfully adorable week-end.


giving thanks to winnie

it occurred to me this morning as i flung myself out of bed at 7:21, nearly 25 minutes late for the  1/4 mile walk down to the barn, that there is a part of my life here on the farm, a rather big part, that i have mentioned only in passing. that part being milkings. the very milkings that have become the leader of our new world. the blessing and curse of milkings. the product of which provides the bulk of nourishment to my little family. the stress of which keeps us in battle with state laws. the necessity of which binds our bodies to the farm. once at morning and once at night.

we went to dinner at the house of dear friends last night to celebrate the end of year 2 of law school for them. by 11 pm we were, as it goes now, yawning too uncontrollably for proper conversation and had to pardon ourselves home. i'm more accustomed to being in bed by 9 these nights and so with the sun hidden behind some very grumpy rain clouds this thursday morning my internal alarm excused herself and thus the late start.

it is hard not to be rather bitter on the subject of milkings on rainy late mornings like this when all we wanted was to sleep off a night drinking whisky with friends. the definitive responsibility of a milk cow hasn't fully set in yet. we still go about our lives pretending this isn't forever. of course we haven't skipped a milking yet and would never do that to winnie. but it doesn't stop us from living our lives as though it is a problem that will find its own solution.

like next wednesday when i have made plans to be in new york and nick has made plans to be in boston. two of us away does not a cow milk. and yet, we can't seem to want to find a compromise.

i let myself carry this bitterness some days for winnie. as though she is the one that has burdened us. i carry it as i drag myself down to the barn at dawn, in a mix of pajamas and yesterday's work clothes. teeth unbrushed. stomach empty. feeling a little resentment for the sleeping nick and rudy. i curse the interminable cold of the milking parlor as i make my way through it and to the animals. i curse the darkness, the dankness that seem inherent qualities of all milk barns. i curse the pile of scrap pipes in the corner that we have deemed worthy of saving and unworthy of using. i curse the heft of the milk pail that we inherited with the barn and curse our lack of money to buy something lighter and easier on my tired arms. i curse the new chicken nest to the left of the barn doors and wonder how many other unsanctioned nests the chickens have hidden.

and then i open the doors. the cursed doors that are missing 2 wooden panels and 6 glass panes. and there she is. her eyes like that of a cartoon deer. she blinks at me. she takes a big smell on the corduroys i  have been wearing for the last 6 days.  she gently pushes by me,  through the open doors and lumbers to her stanchion. without any words. without any curses. without reprimanding me for my tardiness. the simplicity of her duty melts all my resentment away. she is such a large, prehistoric looking creature. such a far cry from the cats and dogs i have had my whole life. she is filled with milk and she is waiting there, patiently, to let me take it.

i don't have any photos of me milking winnie. or nick for that matter. there is something inherently private about the act. i haven't felt comfortable about bringing my camera down with me.  and so, i haven't and you must forgive me the lack of photos and my fumbling for words as i describe the milking.

as she waddles into her stanchion i am immediately filled with guilt for the wait i have given her this grey morning. her udder is swollen with milk and her back legs are awkwardly trying to negotiate the ground below while the udder bounces between them. once she is still i tie her tail to her leg to avoid a wet whip to the face mid milking. i fetch some warm water and begin to towel off the mud and straw and poop from the night before. she isn't as fastidious a cow as our sweet bella. and so i find myself doing this every morning. i suppose when your udder has reached a certain swollen size cleanliness falls from your list of cares.  after her teats are clean in the vulgar way that you would feel comfortable drinking from them (in a sense that is the standard raw milk must meet) i fetch the wretchedly heavy milk pail and assume my post.

i found nick an old wooden milking stool in celebration of our first cow and his 29th birthday. originally i selfishly pitied ourselves and the measly $30 i could afford for his birthday present but on these mornings i have come to cherish the little stool. it sits barely 10 inches off the ground which puts my face right at the crook of her left hind leg and belly and my hands at her udder. she quietly chews her cud and as i begin to work down the first milk in her teats she lets out a big sigh. which relaxes me and we work quietly and steadily to empty her udder. it takes all of 20 minutes. sometimes longer depending on how tired my arms and hands are. but we are finished before i am even fully awake and with that my morning has officially begun. i go on to filter and jar the milk, clean the parlor, and feed the chickens and pigs.  and winnie slowly walks back out to the field to resume her hours with the quickly growing grass.

as far as i can tell there is no better way to start my morning than this simple act of milking. certainly, there are ones like today's where i spend much energy begrudging the choice of a milk cow and the freedom we have lost and the bits of our lives that have become that much harder. but there is no creature better at calming me and helping me welcome the morning than winnie. and for her i am eternally thankful.


the week's end

my first thought on this --dare i jinx it?-- warm and sunny monday is to all of the sweet congratulations you offered when i told you that, for better or worse, nick and i made the decision to spend the rest of this life with each other. thank you. i do love that boy. and it makes me happy that you are happy for our happy.

my second through umpteenth thoughts of this monday have no cohesive mind binding them, save that they were all my week-end. and so, i present to you my week-end. it started out gloomy, rainy, and objectively chilly for a may 4th. but it turned into a magical few days of sunshine, gardening, and just nick and kate time. all and all an uneventful set of days. but those have beauty in their own ways.

without further ado.

photos of the week's end.
1. on gloomy days i do things like re-arrange the cupboards. we actually don't have much in the way of cupboards. so i keep a good many foods in this bureau. oh you rascal of a tiny kitchen. 
2. something was wrong with the dryer on friday. i decided on the cowardly route of not investigating what was so wrong and instead skulked away from it with my heaping load of damp washing. due to the Gloominess of the day i strung the lines up in our poor bedroom and so ensued a solid 18 hours of ducking through and hiding behind the washing. 

3. the sun came out and so most of the houseplants were thrown outdoors to gather what energy the could. 

4. this little plant hates outdoors. she also hates the shadows. the wind. and too much water. likewise she hates too little water. she has a long list of hates.  i spend an appalling amount of hours dragging her around the house keeping her happy.

5. nick declared saturday a day for chucks. i don't have chucks so i don't know what this means. but i told him that they looked like crap shoes for fixing fences and he agreed.  

6. our house cat. 

7. i made 3 different batches of yogurt.  i inadvertently strained this one for 16 hours. it is quite thick and creamy. i had this for breakfast and it seems to be the winner of an unspoken competition. i brought jars of each kind to the houses on either side of ours and have received similar feedback. winnie's production has ramped up to nearly 4 gallons of milk a day which leaves us with plenty to perform such mindless experiments. 

8. ted and his adopted mama. her name is leche. she is 10 years old. has heaps of fur (wool? hair?). she has bug eyes, the horror of which you can't quite make out in this photo.  her horns go in 7 different directions. she is a love bug. and she is in a nine-year-strong domestic partnership with canela (not pictured). canela doesn't care much for ted, but tolerates him.

9. fiddleheads! nick made a weekend habit of collecting some before lunch each day. 
10. sick chicken (and messy bedroom). nick thought she had hurt her leg so we kept her in our ICU/bathroom overnight. turns out she was faking it, so i walked her down to the barn to return to her brood this morning.
11. my heart was just not in the dandelion harvest yesterday. so this is where i will leave you, because i promised nick dandelion fritters for lunch and i must get a pickin'.


these hands

these are the hands i -we- will spend the rest of our life depending on and working with. 

i thought i should tell you, as its been a good many months now, that nick and i are engaged to be married. nothing happened. in that there was no proposal. rather, we just decided slowly as though it were the most natural progression that this is what would happen. we told our families. nick's mother gave us the diamond that belonged to her mother's mother's mother, anna.  eventually we told our friends and larger swaths of our family. and now, here i am telling more of you. because as time goes on, and i wear anna's diamond, i want to tell everyone that nick will be my wife and i his man. or however it goes.

nick and kate. kate and nick. he is my other half. my truly good half. he is my balance. he is my temper. he is my compass. he was the first man i met in san francisco. he was my housemate. then my roommate.  he is my best friend. he is the only man in the world i have met that will lay down in the barnyard with me and nap with our cow. he is the only man who will put up with my crazy. he is the only man who will sit me down. day after day. to remind me to eat and to eat well. he is the only man who will quit a good, paid life in a far off city to work with me for nothing or for little. he is the only man who will make the bed in the morning because i insist he does, and then watch me re-make the bed later to my precisions. he is the only man who sings as horrifically bad and off key as i. he is the only man who knows that all i want from town is a butterfinger.  he is the other half of my soul. when he is away i am forever looking around, with words trapped on my tongue. with thoughts half formed. he is neither my fiancĂ© nor my betrothed nor my boyfriend. nor my husband to be. he is my partner. through and through. i had never known the meaning of the word until i had made one in nick.

we are worlds away from having an actual wedding. that is something neither of us could put together right now. we will. but not now.  we are already starting our life together. we are building our farm. we are building a life in vermont. we are doing every bit of it side by side.

we picked ramps for hours yesterday. we went down after lunch, to the sloping wet woods where they have spread like fire. and we dug and picked and shoveled and forked well into the evening.  rachael stopped by to give us news of potential barn kitties just born, to drop off some tomato starts and cookies. she continued on her day and we continued on our harvest. we picked pounds and pounds. nick had the idea to sell them in boston. true to my character i resisted all the way. i hate making money. but this is life. this is our life. we need to make it work however we can. and i need to help my partner whenever he needs the other two hands. and so we harvested til sundown and cleaned well into the night. nick milked winnie as i packed the last of the ramps. we dragged ourselves back to the house and fell asleep watching high fidelity and eating breakfast for dinner. nick drove to boston this morning and i am here, tending the fires of the farm.

some days i am overwhelmed with the simplicity of it all. this is how life will be. this is how life is. our hands look like this now and we are only 28 and 29. i can't imagine how they will fare another 60 years. it is so thoroughly exhausting but i wouldn't change it, or the man i live it with, for the world.


ramp pesto

"there are thousands of spots in this country where, with the requisite knowledge, a man could live solely on the bounty  of nature...with the judicious, if incongruous, use of a home freezer, he could stay fat the year round by reaping where he did not sow"

euell gibbons wrote this in 1962 as an introduction to his famed stalking the wild asparagus. if you don't have it in your possession, but do have any interest in foraging your own food,  you ought to find it. this book, along with peterson field guide to eastern/central medicinal plants and herbs have been my constant companions this spring as we enter our second month in vermont.

naively i thought foraging would be the last of my concerns on a farm. i imagined my freezer, larder, pantry, root cellar stuffed with goods i had grown. i envisioned a garden brimming with green. isn't that the whole point of farming and gardening? to cultivate both meat and vegetable and do away with foraging and hunting. what i managed to so boldly overlook was the Early Spring. here we are, four weeks into our journey in vermont, and the garden is still mostly bare. we had a light snow cover on saturday. and three frosts in the past seven nights. the cold frame has sprouts. there are trays of starts all over the house wherever there is light or warmth. our stores of last year's soups and preserves are running low. our potato and onion supply have vanished (save for a basket of both that my dear lindsay brought us this sunday). we are certainly not starving. the chickens and cow have made sure of that. but the litany of eggs and milk and milk and eggs every meal for every day can be a bit much to handle.

and so enters the ramp. after our friend molly was here at the farm for a weekend visit she wrote to us:

"since you won't get that gardening going until the snow stops threatening, i wanted to let you know i spied some ramps (edible wild garlic) on your driveway. some vitamin c for you! eat the leaves and the bulbs. it was a drive by ID, but i doubt it can be anything other than that. it's growing on the slope up and down the driveway hillside on your right as you approach that kinda ramshackle run down trailer situation at the first s bend."

i don't know how we would have eaten so well, if it wasn't for her kind note. we went to investigate and sure enough, there were thousands of ramps growing admist the trees just below our milking barn. they are known as ramps in these woods. wild leek or wild garlic to others. but they grow in often abundant populations in rich, wet woods. 

since then we have been using the greens and bulbs in salads, in scrambled eggs, in dressings, in potatoes, in soups, and, my favorite, in pesto.

it can serve as the substitute for both the basil and the garlic in your pesto. some like to add parsley to this to temper the power of the ramp (as it is almighty). we don't have any parsley yet, so i added the ramps bits at a time, tasting as i went.

when harvesting the ramp, i recommend a spade to gently dig the bulbs up. like cultivated leeks and onions, ramps are slippery and it is easy to pull just the leaves off while the bulb remains firmly entrenched in her ground.

i use the following imprecisions to make a ramp pesto:

1 1/2 to 2 bunches of ramps; bulbs and leaves a bunch is about a handful
1/2 to 3/4 c EVOO
a pinch (or two) of celtic sea salt
1/2 c parmesan or as much as you want, for this only increases the deliciousness of the pesto
1/3 c crushed almonds, pinenuts, walnuts, whatever.

the beauty of pesto is twofold; you can use any nut or cheese or green you have available AND there is no real science (in my decidedly unscienced brain) to how much of anything you put in. use the above as a jumping off point but then add more of whatever according to your taste.

i have never relied on foraged goods for my survival. and it would be brazen to say that is what we are doing now. but i have a belatedly-found respect for what grows in the woods now. and i must say, i look forward to fostering this new dependence i have with the forest and meadows around us.

have any of you been little mountain foragers this spring? any recommendations for what to find or how to cook it?

as a somewhat obvious caveat: when foraging always consult at least 2 books on the foraged item before eating. photos in plant guides will always differ with what stage in the plant's life they were taken. it is forever a good idea to have a Second Opinion, or even a Third.

and a less obvious caveat but no-less important: don't over-harvest an area when foraging. you want to leave enough for the plant to re-seed itself so that you and the other forest nymphs can enjoy an eternal supply.

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